SPAGHETTI FOR THE SOUL: A Feast of Faith, Hope, and Love
Kathy Troccoli and Ellie Lofaro
My dictionary doesn't include a definition of the verb "dish" as used on this book's cover ("two Italians from Brooklyn dish on the life God gives") or in sidebar headings ("let's dish about…everyday challenges to faith" or "…signs of hope"). This is dishing as only Italians would understand it. In written and spiritual form --- not edible and physical --- they're offering up the essentials of life: pasta and meatballs and pastries for the soul.
Though neither claims to be a great Italian cook, they both fondly remember extended-family feasts; in appreciation of that culinary and community heritage, they wind their book around food themes: a three-course "meal" of abundant faith, abundant hope and abundant love. And then as an extra bonus, they include ethnic recipes, which look to be simplified for the modern cook. (Start with a box of spaghetti rather than with flour and water in order to make your own pasta.)
Troccoli, an award-winning gospel singer, and Lofaro, a popular speaker, present SPAGHETTI FOR THE SOUL conferences that presumably feature their engaging mix of storytelling and biblical teaching --- along with some of Troccoli's music. In their book they frequently turn to biblical examples and teaching points but not in a way that is forced or formulaic.
The two women obviously know each other well, having first met in New York in 1990; their expressions of friendship, including loving confrontations, are part of what makes the book work. As a writing team, they sometimes speak as "we." Any personal anecdotes are clearly and unobtrusively identified with the subject's name --- for example, "I (Ellie)…" Overall, the voice of Ellie --- married and mother of three teens --- predominates, even though she does not get top billing in the byline.
The anecdotes made me want to keep reading. In the introduction, "Life Is Like a Bowl of Spaghetti," they lay out delights of pasta: it is "satisfying…nourishing…fun…celebratory…intrinsically abundant. It actually grows as it rolls around in the big pot of boiling water." But then they admit that "spaghetti can be messy, sticky, and uncontrollable. And isn't that just like life?" In that "messy" vein, both women make themselves vulnerable. As a younger woman Troccoli struggled with bulimia and depression. For Lofaro, her husband's mid-career move from New York to the southern suburbs churned up self-identity and shame issues. Both women mention extended-family tensions revolving around their ardent and very personalized faith. (It is implied but not stated that they both left their natal Catholic Church.)
Both women admit to being 50, though you wouldn't guess this from their promotional photo. The maturity of their years and faith --- and hope and love --- is evident and refreshing. They seem genuine in their invitation (from Psalm 34:8) for readers to come and "taste and see that the Lord is good."
It's 5 P.M. and I suddenly have an urge to change the dinner menu. Tonight it's pasta.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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